directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi with Raffa묡 Anderson and Karen Bach runs July 20-August 2 at Grand Illusion
JUST HOW BAD does a film have to be in order to be banned in France? The makers of Baise-moi—Fuck Me if you're nasty, Rape Me if you're not—are counting on that very question, hoping their tr賠violent sex romp's controversy will lure art-house audiences. Based on co-director Virginie Despentes' 1995 novel, Baise-moi wants to be a gutsy feminist flick in theory. In practice, however, it's just a sloppy amalgam of Natural Born Killers, cheaply made porno, and a much, much more cruel Thelma & Louise.
Baise-moi introduces its two unkempt heroines, Nadine and Manu (real-life porn actresses Karen Bach and Raffa묡 Anderson, respectively), as they slog through their grim daily routines of getting wasted and being smacked about by the men in their lives. We meet Manu as she and a junkie pal are viciously beaten and raped in a scene so gruesome that The Accused pales in comparison. Unrelenting close-ups of savage penetration abound, but that's not even the shocker. While Manu's friend howls and fights her attackers, Manu willfully unzips her pants for her oppressor. Entering her, he becomes enraged at her blank-eyed passivity. "It's like fucking a zombie," he complains before giving up.
Meanwhile, Nadine listens to her uptight roommate's constant bitching, then snaps, strangling her following a beautifully filmed catfight. (In this role, Bach's an eerie dead ringer for Katie Holmes—if she were, say, older and a prostitute.) A clumsy setup brings Manu and Nadine together as they prepare to flee town, blood lust in their souls. They steal a car and drive off into the night, and another road movie is born.
Though the DV-filmed Baise-moi is short on plot and point, there's a lot to love in its scrappy leads. Tomboyish Nadine and spitfire Manu team up on one hapless bystander after another, committing murders that are, unlike most social violence, non-gender-specific. (They kill women, too.) Yet after one robbery, they do what any red-blooded women would do—go shopping. Their hunger for living in the moment—for feeling, not thinking—rubs off, too. Despite a crudely clich餠script (Despentes owes a lot to Oliver Stone), it's easy to embrace Nadine and Manu's antics without wanting to get at some sort of bigger message. Baise-moi isn't the groundbreaking film it pretends to be, but its cartoonish, carpe diem approach is hard to resist.